I wanted to write my typical meandering lead-in paragraph to Mockingjay Part 1: mention how the first Hunger Games avoided the “Successful YA Novel Series –> Fan Pandering, Incomplete Films” trap with a premise full of deep possibilities, how its biggest weakness was a refusal to let any interesting dilemmas actually play out, and how rather than getting heavier (see: Harry Potter) the second film took a step backwards towards its lesser fan servicing tendencies. But why bother? It’d be like criticizing Grown Ups 2 for not exploring ennui as deftly as Sideways. Lofty aims are the least of its problems.
I didn’t really expect the Hunger Games series to live up to its (remarkable) potential, but I at least expected it to be fun. Mockingjay Part 1 isn’t fun at all. It isn’t much of anything, really: the entire 2 hour plot could have been squeezed into a 20 minute intro to Part 2. I criticized Catching Fire for focusing on a same-old adventure which never adds up to much, but this film had me begging for another silly puzzle about clocks. A calm-before-the-storm plot would be semi-forgivable if it fleshed it out with strong character moments; here it seems like the only directorial input was “Be one-note and muted…except you, JLaw, you need keep crying so all the fans remember how much you love their favorite character. And if that doesn’t stick, we’ll have a secondary character elaborate on that love out loud.” People appear on screen, pause to let the crowd cheer, then proceed to do nothing with their lives. Dialogue is used as a platform for the characters to blandly run through all the finer points of the story, then remark on how well it ties together with the earlier films. All the interesting ethical questions have been replaced with mediocre teen drama. Which hunk does she truly love more? Can she handle this burden in 20 minute intervals? Will Katniss Everdeen finally become Cat-less Everdeen? I don’t really care anymore. It’s finally embraced the Twilight within, the teenage Jekyll to its smart Sci-Fi Hyde. It’s worse than a blatant cash grab: it’s boring.